Honorary doctors in technology 2023

The schools of technology at Aalto University have granted seven honorary doctorates to distinguished persons in the fields of science, technology and society. The honorary doctorates were conferred on 16 June 2023 in the ceremonial conferment of doctoral degrees at Aalto University.
2023 Honorary Doctors
2023 Honorary Doctors. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Aalto University schools can grant honorary doctorates and doctoral insignia at conferment ceremonies to individuals with strong ties to Aalto University and impressive achievements in science and technology or significant contributions to other societal or cultural activities. The honorary doctorate is the highest honour an university can award.

Honorary doctorates 2023 of technology were awarded to:
Director General Tuula Antola, Omnia
Professor emeritus Hubert Girault, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Professor Minna Karstunen, Chalmers University of Technology
Research Director Jyri Kosola, Finnish Defence Forces
Professor Kurt Mehlhorn, Saarland University
Head of Hull Basic Design Ari Niemelä, Meyer Turku
L. Herbert Ballou Professor Arto Nurmikko, Brown University

Tuula Antola
Tuula Antola. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Director General Tuula Antola, Omnia, Finland

Tuula Antola is Director General at Omnia, the Joint Authority of Education in the Espoo Region. She has previously worked as Director of Economic Development for the City of Espoo, in managerial positions in the private sector and as a co-founder in three startups. She currently chairs the board of Omnia Education Partnerships Ltd and is a board member in Wenhe Oy, the Skills Finland association and The Finnish Association for the Development of Vocational Education and Training AMKE. She is also a partner in the Boardman Ltd network. 

Antola is a professional leader in the public and private sectors and equipped with an entrepreneurial and innovation activist mindset. In her role as Director of Economic Development for the City of Espoo, she held a key role in consolidating the strategic partnership between Aalto University and the City of Espoo, particularly in developing the Otaniemi campus and Aalto University’s ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovations. Furthermore, she has served as a member of the Aalto Sustainability Hub Advisory Board, and in the Design Factory community she went by the name Business Fairy. 

Antola holds a Master of Science degree in Wood Processing Technology from Aalto University’s predecessor, Helsinki University of Technology (HUT). During studies, she held positions such as Secretary of International Affairs at the HUT Student Union and was active in the Teekkariteatteri theatre. She was also one of the founders of BEST, the Board of European Students of Technology, still active today. Antola has completed the Aalto Executive MBA programme and served as a board member in Aalto University’s Alumni Network between 2020 and 2022. 

Hubert Girault
Hubert Girault. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Professor emeritus Hubert Girault, EPFL École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland

Hubert Girault is professor emeritus at the EPFL École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. He is an internationally renowned researcher in electrochemistry, and he has also been active in physical and bio-analytical chemistry, particularly in immunoassays, electrophoresis, and mass spectrometry. 

Girault graduated with a PhD from the University of Southampton, England, before becoming lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He was appointed Professor of Physical Chemistry at the EPFL, Switzerland, in 1992 and has been Director of the Laboratoire d’Electrochimie Physique et Analytique since its creation. Girault has held many managerial positions at EPFL and he has played a major part in reforming education there. His lecture notes have also formed the basis of a textbook entitled Electrochimie Physique et Analytique.  

The scientific output of Professor Girault can be quantitatively summarized as more than 850 publications, more than 31,000 citations and an H-index of 92. 20 patents have been granted to him and most are under licensing agreement. Girault has also served as an associate editor and a member of editorial board in leading journals in his field. In addition, he has received numerous medals and awards internationally in societies in chemistry. Girault has also been the founding director, a member of the board and a member of the scientific council in several companies. 

Professor Girault has acted as a thesis opponent of several Aalto doctoral students and, vice versa, they have acted as opponents at EPFL. He has published 50 joint papers with Aalto researchers. 

Minna Karstunen
Minna Karstunen. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Professor Minna Karstunen, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

Minna Karstunen works as Professor of Geotechnics at Chalmers University of Technology, leading the foremost international research group of the field. She is one of the world’s best-known numerical methods experts in geotechnics. Karstunen’s specialised expertise relates to the design of road embankments and cuts, tunnels, and bridge foundation on very soft soils, along with material model design for soft clay.  

Karstunen earned her doctorate at Swansea University in the UK in 1998 and built a successful career there before assuming a full professor position in Sweden. Karstunen has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles in the field’s most reputable journals and has been an editorial team member in industry publications such as the Geotechnique journal. She has promoted the industry’s development by organising several international conferences and by participating in the technical committees of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE). 

Between 1999 and 2014, Karstunen was Associate Professor at Helsinki University of Technology and later at Aalto University’s Department of Civil Engineering. Her collaboration with Aalto University has also continued actively since. Karstunen has held a key role in securing funding for several national and EU projects, and these projects have further consolidated her collaboration with Aalto University’s Department of Civil Engineering while also enabling the completion of several doctoral dissertations. Karstunen has further contributed to students’ instruction as a teacher and taught on numerical methods courses at Aalto University. The instructional cooperation has supported researchers’ high competence levels in the geotechnics specialist area. 

Jyri Kosola
Jyri Kosola. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Research Director Jyri Kosola, Finnish Defence Forces, Finland

Jyri Kosola works as Research Director at the Finnish Defence Forces and is in charge of their research and development activities. Kosola graduated as both Master and Licentiate of Science in Technology from Helsinki University of Technology, where he studied telecommunications, digital technology, data transfer and signal processing. Kosola has completed a General Staff Officer’s degree at the National Defence University and a post-graduate degree in Military Electronics Systems Engineering at Cranfield University in the UK. Kosola has served the Finnish Defence Forces for over 31 years and worked as its Research Director since 2014. 

Kosola has been an active bridge builder between the research and defence communities while also promoting a Finnish cooperation network in the field of defence technologies. Research collaboration between Aalto University and the Defence Forces has remained close for two decades and held great significance both in terms of research results and funding. The technologies developed in joint projects are also widely used in the Finnish ICT industry. 

Kosola has worked tirelessly and showcased the potential and challenges arising from information technological developments and impacting the Finnish defence. He has published instructional materials on information technology since the early 1990s, and his publication activities have had great significance for the field. He has launched wide-scale research programmes to develop key ICT technologies for defence and commercial purposes. 

Kurt Mehlhorn
Kurt Mehlhorn. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Professor Kurt Mehlhorn, Saarland University, Germany

Kurt Mehlhorn is Professor at Saarland University and a founder of Max Planck Institute for Informatics research center. He led the algorithms group of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics between 1990 and 2019. Mehlhorn is considered a pioneer of European algorithms research. 

Mehlhorn has held numerous key positions and memberships in science administration, such as Vice President of the Max Planck Society in 2002—2008 and a member of the European Research Council in 2016—2022. He has also written a widely used, three-volume textbook on data structures and algorithms. Mehlhorn’s scientific work includes 11 books, 6 software libraries and approximately 300 journal and conference articles. He has received numerous awards for his work, such as Leibniz Award, Humboldt Award and Konrad Zuse Award. 

Mehlhorn has held a key role in supporting several Aalto University professors at the early stages of their careers by hosting postdoc visits, reviewing their research and as a research collaboration partner. He has also afforded many Aalto University researchers valuable opportunities for finding and consolidating international contacts through the informatics research institutes he has founded. 

Ari Niemelä
Ari Niemelä. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

Head of Hull Basic Design Ari Niemelä, Meyer Turku, Finland

Ari Niemelä is Head of Hull Basic Design at the Meyer Turku shipyard. He is one of the top ship structural designers in the world. He has developed pioneering strength and vibration technical design that has contributed to Finland’s reputation in the shipbuilding industry globally and facilitated the implementation of demanding new ship concepts. 

Niemelä graduated as a Master of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from Helsinki University of Technology in 1990. After graduating, he worked as Classification Engineer at Deltamarin Ltd, Principal Designer at Kvaerner Masa Yards, Hull Basic Design Project Manager at Aker Finnyards and Manager of Hull Basic Design at STX Finland. 

Niemelä has actively forged collaboration between Meyer Turku and Aalto University, which has led to radical industrial innovations in the cruise ship industry. This has also significantly promoted Aalto University’s academic performance in marine technology, reflected in rankings in international comparisons. The collaboration has led to a partnership agreement between Aalto University and Meyer Turku. Niemelä has persistently promoted the careers of Aalto University’s young professors, doctors and graduated engineers and supported the completion of industrial master’s and doctoral degrees related to cruise ship structural product development at the Meyer Turku shipyard. 

In 2010, Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland TEK awarded The Finnish Engineering Award to Niemelä for his meritorious innovation in the strength and vibration technical hull design of the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. He was also awarded the title of Alumnus of the Year by Aalto University’s School of Engineering in 2017. 

Arto Nurmikko
Arto Nurmikko. Photo: Aalto University/Heli Sorjonen

L. Herbert Ballou Professor Arto Nurmikko, Brown University, United States

Arto Nurmikko is an L. Herbert Ballou University Professor of Engineering and Physics at Brown University. He received his degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, with postdoctoral stays at MIT and Hebrew University. Nurmikko’s research fields encompass electrical engineering, physics and brain sciences, with a particular focus on neuroengineering, nanophotonics and microelectronics. 

Nurmikko has been awarded numerous grants by and led teams of investigators for multiple US federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Fellow of the Optical Society of America. He has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a foreign member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.  Nurmikko is the holder of a number of US patents and has more than 400 publications in several fields. He was co-winner of the Israel Brain Prize in 2013. 

Nurmikko’s contribution to Aalto University and the School of Science (SCI) in particular has been substantial. He was the chair of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of SCI for ten years, from 2011 to 2020, during which time the SAB advised SCI on a major renewal of department structures that the school implemented in 2015.  Nurmikko was also a visitor at the Department of Applied Physics in 2008 and the Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering in 2016. During his visits, the departments greatly benefited from his expertise on bridging physics and neuroscience. 

Further information: Tatu Pohjola, email firstname.lastname (at)

Doctoral hats, 2016

Honorary doctors at Aalto University

All the conferred Honorary Doctors at Aalto University and the preceding universities of technology, business, and arts and design.

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Kuva: Aalto-yliopisto, Heli Sorjonen

Honorary Doctors' Talks

Recipients of honorary doctorates at Aalto University in the field of technology will share key observations from their careers. Open to all, welcome!

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Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees in Technology 2023

The 2023 Ceremonial Conferment of Technology at Aalto University

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Aalto University Graduation Party celebration in 2018. Photo by Aalto University / Heli Sorjonen

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Academic events cover the entire academic year from Aalto Day One all the way to the Ceremony Week with the graduation party and ceremonial conferments. Tenured professors' Installation Talks and public defences spread throughout the academic year.

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